Local TV News Rises in Depressing Year

The average audiences for two key evening news time slots on the Big Four affiliated TV stations were up in 2020 over the year before, according to a new Pew analysis of various data released Tuesday (July 13).

Pew said that local TV news was on par or outpacing network and cable news.

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Pew, which issues an annual review of key audience and economic indicators from a variety of sectors and sources, pointed out that audiences for the 4-7 p.m. and 11 p.m.-2 a.m. time slots were each up an average 4% (Pew cited Comscore data).

Total revenue (according to MEDIA Pro Access/BIA) was $18.4 billion in 2020, an 8% increase over 2019, driven by election advertising.

Gray Television, Nexstar Media Group, Scripps, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tegna — the big publicly held broadcast groups (and thus with publicly reported numbers) — reported a total $2 billion in political ad revenue, up from $1.2 billion in the 2018 mid-term election year, but almost two and a half times the $843 million spent in 2016, the most recent prior presidential election year.

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While digital advertising remains a fraction — less than 10% — of total TV station ad revenue, the category was up 6% to about $1.4 billion.

For a summary of Pew's methodology for analyzing the various data sources, go here.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.